Farmington River Report 6/13/18: Workin’ hard, playin’ hard

On the river for ten hours today and loving every minute of it! I started by guiding Brian from 11am-3pm. Brian had a story that is typical of many of my clients: loves the Farmington, but has had too many encounters with the skunk. He wanted to focus on wets, but I suggested we spend an hour working on his nymphing game, since that is the year-round highest percentage play on this river. Brian has mostly Euro-nymped, but I set him up with a drop shot ring under an indicator. He took to it like he’s been doing it forever. There’ll be no skunk, today, Brian. The first fish was noteworthy because the indicator never went under — it merely twitched. Look for a reason to set the hook on every drift, and like that Brian was on the board.

It was a cool, wet day, and there was precious little bug activity. The water is still unusually cold, with 48 degrees at the bottom end of the permanent TMA, which was running at 330cfs. Nonetheless, we managed a mix of browns and rainbows by (you’ve heard this if you’ve taken my class) moving around and covering water. Nice work, Brian.

Every guide loves the sight of a bent rod and a tight line. Brian did a great job with his hook sets today.

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Thank you for playing. They liked the bottom nymph, a size 14 Frenchie variant.

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Now it was my turn to play. I grabbed a sandwich and headed off to a snotty run to swing wets under a leaden sky. The cold from the river was a stark contrast to the warm and humid air (my lower legs and feet were uncomfortably cold by the time I finished.) By this time (4pm) there was a slight uptick in bug activity. Whack! My second cast produced a gorgeous wild brown.

They don’t make ’em like this in the factory. Absolutely flawless fins.

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Any pre-hatch period is my favorite time to swing wets, and I moved down to a more languid section of water. Sure enough, as the clock moved toward 5pm, there was an uptick in bug activity, mostly Light Cahills (Vitreus) 12-14 and caddis 14-16. The fish were rising a little more regularly now. I was fishing a three fly team of a Squirrel and Ginger on top, a Light Cahill winged in the middle and a Hackled March Brown on point. My strategy was to target active risers, and I caught a bunch of trout on all three flies.

There comes a time during every hatch when the subsurface wet becomes ineffective, and today it was 7pm. I switched over to dries, and had a blast fooling trout on the surface. I fished Magic Flies and Usuals, 14-16, and had a good couple dozen takes — but only about half of them stuck. I was going to leave at 8pm, but I remembered how fiercely I admonish those who depart from the river before the magic hour in June and July, so I stuck around until 9pm. The last half hour, the river was simmering with rise forms. I switched over to classic Light Cahill dries, 12-14, and ended the session with a healthy brown who was just showing the beginnings of a kype.

The best part? There was no one there except for me, the trout, and the bugs.

Our Lady of the Blessed Pink Band. First Farmy trout of the year on a dry. 

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Farmington River Report 5/21/18: Working hard on a glorious day

Adam won the weather lottery when he picked yesterday for his wet fly lesson. It was easily one of the ten best days of the year. The river was 415cfs and 58 degrees in the permanent TMA. The trout were a bit less cooperative, but we stuck with it and ended up with several to net.

The plan was to walk a couple long stretches, actively fishing and picking pockets, swinging through runs, and dangling over likely holding areas. This was one of those days where Mother Nature tells you, “Nice try, boys, but today the trout are going to be stuck to the bottom.” High pressure sometimes does that. So after 90 minutes all we had to show for our efforts was a bump and a missed hookset.

We were standing in a run that I knew held fish. We added a shot to the middle dropper for  a short-line deep presentation, and what do you know? We hooked up on our demo cast. Adam went to work and had a customer in short order.

Bug activity was about a four on the 1-10 scale: small (size 18) caddis, midges, BWOs, and a couple larger un-IDed mayflies. We did see some smutting trout in a classic dry fly pool. Our persistence paid off in the second run we walked through, with the trout nodding their approval to Adam’s soft hackles. Well done, young man!

What we like to see and hear: a bent rod and a singing drag.

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A rambunctious rainbow moments before capture. With the warm of the air and the refreshing splash of cold water on your hands, all is right with the world.

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Farmington River Report 5/5/18: A wonderful day for wets

Every once in a while, the planets align and the fishing and weather and dam release gods smile upon you. Such was the case for yesterday’s “Fishing Wet Flies and Soft Hackles” class. We had beautiful weather, a perfect 375cfs in the permanent TMA, respectable hatch activity, and cooperative trout. What more could you ask for? How about having the two runs we fished all to ourselves (on a sunny Saturday in early May)? What?!? The answer was yes.

Great job by Andrew, Adam, Ihor, John, and Lou, who are all now officially certified wet fly and soft hackle threats. Guys, it was a pleasure being your instructor.

Every class participant got into trout, and Andrew really lit it up. Here he is doing battle with a spirited rainbow. We had a lot of interest from the fish today on bead head soft hackles fished in the point position.

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Ihor’s first of the day, taken on the swing in some classic wet fly water. We had a tough time later on trying to get a couple of his (the trout’s, not Ihor’s) cousins to eat, despite some tactical positioning and flawless dead drift presentations. I’ve seen it play out so many times on this river: if your wet fly choice and presentation are good, and the fish doesn’t take within the first three drifts, he’s not having it. Let the fish rest and try again later.

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The smallest trout of the day might have been the loveliest. This wild gem courtesy of John and Mother Nature.

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We experienced a moderate Hendrickson hatch in the afternoon, and the trout were clearly on the emergers. Not surprisingly, the action was best while it was feeding time. A wet fly that matches the hatch and is properly presented to an actively feeding fish remains one of my favorite ways to catch trout. Here’s Adam brandishing a pugilistic rainbow. (Note the water runoff. If the fish isn’t dripping wet, it’s time to get it back in the water.)

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Finally, I need to offer a sincere apology to Lou for not getting any shots of his fish. Lou did a great job, and I especially liked how he positioned himself to target a pod of trout during the afternoon rise. We’ll get you a photo op next time!

Farmington River Report 5/4/18: T.G.I.W(ets)

How divine to be swinging wet flies again. The cast, the mend, the tug — it’s all good stuff. Just a quick zip in and zip out today. Three locations on the lower river in two hours. Water was 600+cfs and 54 degrees. The Hendricksons are all but over in the locations I fished, and the activity was spotty, two. But where it was good it was wonderful.

Run A was en fuego. All fat rainbows, interested in every fly (Squirrel and Ginger, Dark Hendrickson winged, SHBHPT), but mostly on the S&G and Hendrickson and a blast in a ripping current. I had trouble getting one in — oh, look, it’s a double, so that’s why. Run B was less productive — one fish in 15 minutes. Run C was mobbed with anglers and I didn’t get so much as a tap. And that was it.

Wet Fly class tomorrow at UpCountry. See you on the river!

Not from today but you get the picture. F-A-T rainbows, with several steelhead aerials into the bargain.

Matt's Rainbow

Spring fishing madness and current(seams) events

Just a quick post to catch up with you. Warmer weather is finally here, and who among us is not stoked? You haven’t been hearing much from me lately, and that’s due to it being a very busy time between kids’ sports (hockey and lacrosse); yard work (Trivia question: what do me and Bob Pop have in common besides fly fishing for stripers? Answer: We are both avid rose growers); and regular work, work, work. Oh, I’ve been fishing, too. Reports to come.

The Farmington River has gone through an extended high, cold phase. They’ve recently dropped the flow from the dam, and after the Still settles the river should be in fine shape for the weekend. Would you believe I haven’t fished the river in months? That will change next week.

I fished the lower Hous last week and the Bass-o-Matic was on. I fished a full sink integrated line and a variety of soft-hackles and I don’t think I went more than three casts between bass. (You too can become an instant expert.)

I’m starting to get a lot of guiding requests. If you want to book an outing/lesson with me, you can find out everything you need to know here. A reminder that I started doing short striper trips last fall that are geared toward you learning the methodology of trout fishing for striped bass. Also, most of my weekends are booked — so now you’ve got a great excuse to blow off work and fish.

The spring speaking circuit is winding down. My next gig will be September 4 at the Long Island Flyrodders. If you’re the person in charge of booking speakers for your club, fear not and click here.

And yes, there are articles in the magazine pipeline. Details as they come in.

See you on the water!

All in favor of an epic Hendrickson hatch, say aye.

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Did you know that I give private fly tying lessons?

I didn’t either, until a few weeks ago. Bill stopped by my table at the CFFA Expo and asked if I’d give him some fly tying lessons. He wanted to learn some new patterns and refine his technique. We met on Friday, and a swell time was had by all. In addition to tying, we talked about tactics and strategies, from wet fly to nymphing and stripers to trout. So yes, I can speak at your club or show. Yes, I can take you out on the water. And yes, I can work with you on tying and fly fishing theory/practical applications.

I am a teacher. It’s what I do.

Here’s a free lesson for everyone: use only as many thread wraps as you need. Use only as much material as you need (you’re probably using too much.) Here’s how much fur I use for the hackle on a Squirrel and Ginger. And did I mention that you first need to clear out the longer guard hairs and all that underfur dross with a mini comb? What you leave out of a fly is as important as what you put in.

Fur hackle dubbing loop prep

Et voila.

S&G ready to finish

Happy Monday and other items of minor interest

Greetings, fellow reader. Just a note to say hello, give some thanks, and update you on current(seams) events.

I had a blast tying at the CFFA Expo on Saturday. Many thanks to those who gathered ’round my vise, said hello, and asked questions. I escaped the show with a just a patch of opossum fur and a bag o’ tungsten beads. Hopefully you found the treasure you were looking for.

Next up: “Trout Flies for Local Rivers” Tying Demo, Saturday, March 31, 10am-2pm at The Compleat Angler, Darien, CT.  I’ll be tying some of my favorite patterns: wets, dries, nymphs, and streamers, from traditional classics to new designs. These are all high-confidence, proven flies, and I’ll also discuss how and when I like to fish them. For directions and stuff, visit the CA website.

I may also be doing a class at UpCountry. I’ll let you know if that happens.

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Hey, we’re getting close to 600 followers! Once we get there, we’ll do our traditional  fly giveaway. 

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I’m starting to get a lot of inquiries for guiding on the Farmington this spring. As usual, my schedule will be tight with other commitments, and weekends will almost always be out. If you have your mind set on a certain date, that’s fine, but if I were you I’d wait a few weeks to see how the spring shakes out. Remember, the Farmy fishes well year round, so there are plenty of options as we move through April, May, June, July, and beyond. I’ve also had some interest in small stream and striper outings. Those are doable as well. If you want to discuss any of this, please send me an email or call me. You can find my contact info here.

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Finally, the word machine is humming along. I have pieces in the pipeline for American Angler, Field & Stream, Fly Tyer, and more. Stay tuned. And thanks for your loyal support!

Before you know it, you’ll be able to stick your hand in the water without it flash-freezing.

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